24 Mar
Children and the importance of Play based learning.
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By Jeni Wilson.

Play should be a fundamental part of learning. With rapidly changing technology and current health issues, direct social interactions have already been reducing. Anecdotally, teachers and parents frequently comment on children’s reduced ability to cooperate with others. They lack focus, empathy and resilience. They are simply not playing enough.

These capabilities and more, are essentially what children from all edges of the globe and across time learn from play.

So, the challenge for teachers is to harness and respect this intrinsic need of children to play, and treat play as a fundamental part of learning.

“The Case for Play and the impact of early play interventions”.

Check out the Nüdel Kart, a great solution for play based learning.

Things to remember about Play:

Play comes naturally
  • Children have the urge to play
  • Children need to play
  • Play is self-directed and intrinsically motivated
Play is learning
  • It promotes problem solving and problem posing;
  • Unlocks imagination and curiosity; and
  • Develops 21st century skills
Play is essential for wellbeing
  • It helps children process what’s happening in the world;
  • Is fun and safe; 
  • Can be therapeutic; and
  • Is fundamental to healthy development (Individuals and communities)

“The Evidence for Play”Explore the world’s best research on play, spanning the fields of economics, psychology, child development, education and neuroscience:

Incorporating play into classrooms can be thwarted by teachers feeling pressured by an overcrowded curriculum. And the result can be the temptation to try to overlay play with other structures and purposes. For example setting up structured learning tasks that students rotate through. 

But whilst the argument about children ‘not knowing what they don’t know’, or giving all children equal opportunities to experience everything might seem reasonable, corresponding structures can completely change the self-directed nature of play as children attempt to ‘get it right’.

Ironically these teacher structures could inhibit the skills and dispositions teachers are trying to achieve, such as developing focus, imagination, curiosity, collaboration and resilience.

Play Types

There are lots of ways to play. Hughes, ( 2002) suggests there are 16 different types of play. When deciding how to set up for play, consider the following possibilities. 

Types of PlayExamples of what children might be doing
Social PlayListening, talking, sharing, taking turns, playing games, making up rules, teaching friends.
Object PlayManipulating objects, building,  connecting, combining materials.
Imaginative PlayPretending and imagining. Creative role play.  Being a singer in a band, teacher, father with a newborn.
Creative PlayCreative expression. Painting, singing, designer, dancing, writing or drawing. 
Sensory PlayExploring smell, sight, sound, touch and feel. Feel the surfaces of different materials, create sound and colours.
Active PlayBeing active with your body. Jump between objects, dance, roll and slide.

(Table adapted from Sewell, C. Wilson, J. Laing, B. and Veerman, M. (2020) Nüdel Kart Teachers Manual.)

Playground Ideas supports anyone, anywhere to build a stimulating space for play, because children not only have the right to play, but it is imperative for their development, providing them with the opportunity to thrive.

But not everyone has easy access to play. Even in developed countries, the importance of play and play based learning for children is underestimated. Increasing urbanisation, over scheduling and lack of public green spaces are contributing factors. 

So Playground Ideas created the Nüdel Kart to help overcome some of these challenges. The Nüdel Kart is a mobile kart filled with loose parts that provides stimulating play for children anytime, anywhere. Nüdel Kart was designed fundamentally to encourage the highest forms of learning such as imagination, creativity, problem solving,  social skills. All through play based learning.


Lester, S. and Russell, W. 2010

Sewell, C. Wilson, J. Laing, B. and Veerman, M. (2020) Nüdel Kart Teachers Manual (2020)

Walker, Kathy. (2005) What’s the hurry? Australian Scholarships Group (np)